For those who tuned in for Saturday’s UFC card and not Mike Tyson vs. Roy Jones Jr. (or you real addicts who watched both), the fighters did an admirable job over-delivering on the promises laid down on paper. Anthony Smith & Miguel Baeza added to their highlight reels, Parker Porter & Josh Parisian kept an impossible pace for 3 rounds, and every fight on the prelims ended inside the distance.
So, has Smith thrown his name back into the ‘mix’ at 205? Is Baeza a welterweight dark horse? And how fast can the UFC get Sumudaerji back in the cage at flyweight?
To answer those questions – but nothing else – I’ll be using the classic Silva/Shelby fight booking methodology from the UFC of years past. That means pitting winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent up against one another. Hopefully, by following that model, a few of these bout ideas will actually make it off the page and into the Octagon. Now, let’s get to the fights.
This was absolutely the fight Smith had to have here if he wanted to keep his status as part of the light heavyweight elite. Anything less than a quick drubbing of Devin Clark would have likely meant that the issues Smith had against Teixeira and Rakic weren’t just indicative of the strength of their games and the matchups therein, but that the former title contender’s time in the spotlight was likely coming to an end. Instead, Smith did exactly what he needed to, dragging Clark to the mat and subbing him with an electrifying quickness. And that should set him up with another top-flight action bout in the immediate future. It doesn’t sound like Smith is trying to be too choosy, so anyone free in the top 15 may fit the bill. Fights with Nikita Krylov, Johnny Walker, Jim Crute, Magomed Ankalaev, or Paul Craig would all fit the bill well. Of all those options, Ankalaev is most obviously in need of an immediate big step forward. Anthony Smith vs. Magomed Ankalaev would be a perfect test of the Dagestani prospect’s readiness for the elite.
Obviously this couldn’t have gone much worse for the ‘Brown Bear’. Timing and circumstances gave him the first big chance to highlight his talent at the top of a UFC event and he simply wasn’t ready for the diversity of the elite games that the upper echelon of light heavyweight talent bring to the table. Even though he’s faced (and lost to) the likes of Blachowicz and Rakic in the past, it’s a big leap to go from beating Alonzo Menifield to Anthony Smith. That showed up in the cage. Time for another step back. Ion Cutelaba has hit a rough spot lately trying to fight his way past Magomed Ankalaev. How about Clark vs. Cutelaba? Sounds like a banger for however long it lasts.
To Sato’s credit, he tried to start hot and put Baeza on the back foot early. But, once Baeza started showing some power on the counter, that dynamic changed pretty quickly. From there, it felt like just a matter of time until Baeza started landing the kind of shots that would finish the fight. To his credit, he opted to take Sato down and get his first sub win, just to show off some diversity. The victory has him at 3-0 in the Octagon. And to that end, it’s really too bad that Sean Brady just picked up an injury, because Brady vs. Baeza would be a damn decent scrap. Instead, bouts with Shavkat Rakhmonov, Mounir Lazzez, or Sergey Khandozhko. But, what about Nicolas Dalby? Dalby just picked up a controversial win over Daniel Rodriguez to bounce back from a rough loss. A fight with Baeza seems like another surefire action contest where he can put his pace and diversity to good use. And for Baeza, it’s another chance to show off his finishing ability as the bigger hitter in the cage. Baeza vs. Dalby seems like a great welterweight action-fight.
Spike Carlyle showed up with exactly the kind of game he always does here. Powerful, wild, energy expending, and being the tough, well traveled vet that he is Algeo weathered the worst of it to keep a pace that Carlyle was never really able to match. Outside of a brutal looking bulldog choke in round 1, Algeo commanded most of the bout. After the fight he called out Giga Chikadze and it’s a solid name to have in his pocket, but at 5-0 in the UFC there really should be a more notable opponent across from Chikadze next time out. Instead, Algeo could be a great fight for L’udovit Klein, Lerone Murphy, Grant Dawson, or Mike Trizano. Of all those options, and off a win like this one, I think the Lerone Murphy fight is the way to go. Murphy has over-performed well so far in the UFC. And while Algeo is a fresher face to the promotion than the fighters Murphy has already faced, he’s also got enough experience to make for another solid test. And for Algeo, it’s another young, exciting talent he can work to take some hype off. Algeo vs. Murphy should be a good opportunity for ‘Senor Perfecto’ to try and keep his momentum going.
A perfect performance from the Tibetan striker. He walked Gordon onto left hands over and over as his opponent looked to pressure his way into the pocket. The KO followed shortly behind and, after a rough debut, the Enbo Gym talent is now 2-1 in the UFC. He called for a top ten opponent next, but frankly, most of the division is currently booked. There is one fighter straddling that line who needs a bout: Raulian Paiva. The Brazilian took a controversial decision over Zhalgas Zhumagulov last time out, assuming whatever issues took him out of his fight Amir Albazi recently aren’t going to hold him back long, he’d be an excellent test of Sumudaerji’s striking prowess. Sumudaerji vs. Paiva should be a good step forward into the rankings.
OTHER BOUTS: Takashi Sato vs. Christian Aguilera, Parker Porter vs. Rodrigo Nascimento, Josh Parisian vs. Alan Baudot, Spike Carlyle vs. Eduardo Garagorri, Norma Dumont vs. Moras/Melo winner, Ashlee Evans-Smith vs. Julija Stoliarenko, Jonathan Pearce vs. Darrick Minner, Kai Kamaka III vs. TJ Laramie, Anderson dos Santos vs. Batgerel Danaa, Martin Day vs. Geraldo de Freitas, Gina Mazany vs. Shana Dobson, Rachel Ostovich vs. Priscila Cachoeira, Malcolm Gordon vs. Bruno Silva, Nate Maness vs. Adrian Yanez, Luke Sanders vs. Anthony Birchak